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How to give your contracting CV a makeover

The first hurdle you need to climb when applying for contract work is to impress a recruiter (or client) that you are the right person for the job.

The first thing a potential client will see is your CV, and it may well be the last they see of you if you have not taken the time to produce an impressive summary of your skills and abilities.

Providing a business service

Unlike permanent employees, your aim is to persuade a client that you have the technical skills and relevant experience required to fill a short term resourcing gap. You are providing a business service, and so you should concentrate on highlighting your technical and business knowledge above all else on your CV.

Short and sweet

Many recruiters suggest that you keep your CV to one or two pages if possible. Expand on what you have delivered in recent contract roles, but summarise work you have done in the distant past.

Clearly, if you have extensive experience, especially if it is relevant to the role you are applying for, this isn’t always possible, and should only be used as a general guide.

Tailor your CV to suit the role

One of the most important things you should do when applying for work is to tailor your document to fit each individual job specification. Not only does this make business sense, but also common sense, as it demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in the role, and not merely carrying out a mass marketing campaign.

Get the recruiter’s attention right away

Many recruitment agents will look at hundreds of CVs each week. In some cases, there will be dozens of applicants for a single contract role – especially when times are tough. Make sure you provide the reader with what they are looking for right away. Include your technical skills near the top of the CV, and tailor your covering letter or email to the requirements of each role your apply to.

Covering Letter

Although prospective clients and recruiters do not always require covering letters, it is worth spending a short amount of time including a summary of who you are, and why you think you are suited to the contract role in question. You never know, you may come across the one agent who has a penchant for covering letters, and will reap the rewards as a result of the extra time spent.

Contract renewals

It always looks good if you have had contract roles renewed in the past. If this is the case, state ‘renewed 3 times’, or similar, to demonstrate that past clients have valued your contribution to projects.

Avoid waffle

Unlike permanent IT workers, you do not need to provide a high level of personal information on your CV, as you are going to be hired for your technical expertise, not your knowledge of ballroom dancing or experience of the Andes when you were 18.

There’s no harm including a couple of lines if information on interesting hobbies, but don’t waste valuable space which could otherwise be taken up with details of your past technical experience.

Overall presentation

If you are providing a physical document, or attaching a Word CV to an email, make sure you have used conservative fonts throughout, and used standard spacing and header sizes. If you are submitting your details directly via a web form, or social networking service, the physical appearance will be standardised, but you should obviously grammar and spell check everything before you press ‘go’.

Does your story add up?

Some industry commentators believe that the days of the CV are numbered – due in no small part to the rise of social media sites such as LinkedIn.

Many recruiters now trawl the web to look up the details of prospective candidates, which can understandably result in some very interesting findings.

Take care when you post personal information online, and if your CV details are hosted in multiple places, make sure that the information tallies, otherwise you might have some awkward questions to answer at interview!

Last updated: 7th November 2014